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One of our fellow mothers, Amy, wrote this article about discovering speech delays in children.
Watching children develop can be a mother’s greatest joy. The first time they roll over, when they begin to crawl, or when they start to walk are all milestones carefully documented in their baby books. My oldest son Tyler accomplished all of these things early, and with ease. Though there was something missing. His verbal skills seemed to get farther and farther behind.
At first, I attributed it to the fact that he’s a boy. And boys talk later than girls, right? Pretty soon all the boys his age were talking too. Then I figured it was because he was an only child so he doesn’t have siblings talking to him. At one point I even blamed it on the fact that I don’t let him watch TV so he wasn’t learning language from there, obviously I was beginning to grasp at straws.
Finally, I decided that I should talk to my pediatrician about it. I probably should have done it earlier, but I didn’t want to seem like I was a bad mother. Looking back, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.
I was referred to the Birth-3 program in our county. Tyler had to be put through testing to assess what his level of speech was. It was harder on me than it was on him. I had to sit there while they asked him questions, gave him directions and simple tasks to perform. I wasn’t allowed to interfere so they could get a good assessment of where he was.
As hard as the assessment was, the results were worse. As the group of therapists sat around and told me the results, it was as if someone was telling me that I was doing everything wrong and I was a horrible mother. I felt as if I had been sucker punched. I went home and cried. It was hard to admit that my perfect little boy wasn’t perfect after all.
Let me explain with rational thinking, time, and hindsight. I had done nothing wrong. My little boy is just speech delayed. At the assessment, they in no way assessed my work as a mother. They were as kind and as helpful as could be.
Speech delays are present in 5-10% of children. Although it can be linked to deeper problems, both mental and physical, for many children it stands alone. With early intervention treatment, they are able to catch up and start school and be ‘normal’.
As a mother, you are the person best situated to assess their development. Every child develops at a different speed. I had a hunch early on that his speech wasn’t developing properly, but I let pride get in my way. Follow your instincts.
If you think your child has some speech delays, talk to your pediatrician. They can refer you to the program in your area. There are often two routes you can take, public (meaning through the school district) and private. Public is often free, though a lot of programs take summers off and you are subject to availability. Private is more expensive, but can still be free or manageable depending on your insurance. If your child needs lots of help, you may want to consider doing both.
Tyler’s therapy started with in home visits. At first I couldn’t figure out what they were doing because it just looked like they were playing with him. But they were showing Tyler how to talk, what to say when, and how to interact with other adults.
After he had passed the informal behavior tests (meaning that he wasn’t going to be mean to other kids and throw tantrums all the time) he joined weekly group speech therapy. This is where the fun began. Every Monday morning we would go to the local elementary school and play. Every week they had different projects to do, things to stick your hands in, toys to play with and climb on. There was singing time, snack time, and group play. He loved it, I loved it, and Henry (my second child) loved it. My husband even took work off a few times to take Tyler. He had so much fun he considered, albeit briefly, going back to school to become a speech therapist so he could play all day.
Now that Tyler is three years old he moves on from the Birth-3 program, to the early intervention program. He had to be reassessed to again assess if he qualified for services. I again was nervous knowing how terribly the first assessment went. The second time wasn’t as bad, I knew more what to expect, and I knew that it wasn’t my fault.
When it came time to learn the results, I was pleasantly surprised. He had come a long way. He still qualified for treatment, which is great because now I get free preschool, but just barely.
Tyler has come a long way. I have high hopes that by the time he enters kindergarten he will be at a ‘normal’ level of speech. Tyler has learned to talk and I have learned to step back and let him figure things out a little better.